About 150 years ago, as Congress prepared to impeach President Andrew Johnson, someone discovered two bottles of what seemed like nitroglycerin in a Senate passageway. Hysterical politicians fled the building—until some bold newspaperman swigged the liquid. It was just bourbon.

The incident provided a powerful metaphor for the way impeachment turned a substance politicians could usually handle into something highly explosive. After months of drama, Lincoln’s former secretary John Hay concluded: “Impeachment is demonstrated not to be an easy thing. The lesson may be a good one some day.” The lesson, as good in 2017 as it was in 1868, is that removing a president is an ugly process, which can dangerously inflame tensions in an already divided nation.

There were, in the late 1860s, real fears that impeachment could spark a second Civil War. That rebellion was barely over, and posed a number of unanswered questions. What did the nation owe to millions of freed slaves? How should the federal government treat Confederate leaders and seceded states? What should northerners do about the atrocious outbreaks of racist violence unfolding in cities like New Orleans and Memphis?

Things were little calmer in Washington. A victorious, sometimes-cocky, Republican Party controlled more than three-quarters of both houses of Congress. Yet in the White House sat Andrew Johnson, put into power not by a popular vote, but by Lincoln’s assassination. And Johnson, it was painfully clear, was hostile to blacks, lenient with rebels, and hell-bent on fighting Congress.

Johnson was, possibly, the worst man to lead the country at such a tense moment. Racist, crude, and grumpy, Johnson nursed an incredible persecution complex. At best, he was a formerly illiterate tailor who had worked his way up from poverty to the most powerful position in the nation, like his fellow Tennessean and personal hero, Andrew Jackson. At worst, he was paranoid, resentful, narcissistic. Washington politicos described a man who “always hated somebody,” “always defeats himself,” and was “always worse than you expect.”

There were, still, millions who sided with Johnson. White Democrats, especially in the lower north and the south, felt overwhelmed by Republicans. To them, Republicans were social-justice warriors intent on revolutionizing race relations and centralizing Federal power; most Democrats just wanted to return to the old union and old Constitution. Such Democrats launched the most bitterly racist campaigns in American history, rallying behind Andrew Johnson as a symbol of their struggle against change.

Johnson put his presidency on a collision course with Congress. He referred, constantly, to his unfair treatment and to his many enemies, at whom he spat bold, baseless claims. After white police officers slaughtered dozens of black activists in New Orleans, Johnson ridiculously blamed “the radical Congress” for the massacre. On a disastrous speaking tour across the Midwest—in which he drank heavily and compared himself to Jesus—Johnson called for the lynching of his most hated congressional rival, Thaddeus Stevens. Even relatively neutral observers like Senator John Sherman eventually concluded that he was beyond help, sighing: “The truth is, he is a slave to his passions and resentments.”

Johnson’s enemies were nearly as intent on conflict. They set a trap for the president, making it illegal for him to fire certain officials. Of course, Johnson promptly fired them. His nemesis, Stevens, was heard hollering in Congress: “Didn’t I tell you so? If you don’t kill the beast, it will kill you.” Congress moved in, voting for impeachment in March 1868.

–Jon Grinspan, The High Price of Presidential Impeachment

How low do you have to sink to lose an election in this country? Republicans have been trying to answer that question for years. But they’ve been unable to find out, because Democrats somehow keep failing to beat them.

There is now a sizable list of election results involving Republican candidates who survived seemingly unsurvivable scandals to win higher office.

The lesson in almost all of these instances seems to be that enormous numbers of voters would rather elect an openly corrupt or mentally deranged Republican than vote for a Democrat. But nobody in the Democratic Party seems terribly worried about this.

Unsurprisingly, the disintegrating Trump bears a historically low approval rating. But polls also show that the Democratic Party has lost five percentage points in its own approval rating dating back to November, when it was at 45 percent.

The Democrats are now hovering around 40 percent, just a hair over the Trump-tarnished Republicans, at 39 percent. Similar surveys have shown that despite the near daily barrage of news stories pegging the president as a bumbling incompetent in the employ of a hostile foreign power, Trump, incredibly, would still beat Hillary Clinton in a rematch today, and perhaps even by a larger margin than before.

If you look in the press for explanations for news items like this, you will find a lot of them. Democrats may have some difficulty winning elections, but they’ve become quite adept at explaining their losses.

–Matt Taibbi, The Democrats Need a New Message

Your Memorial Day Weekend Sendoff

Two bits of business before you start thinking about whether you really want to pay extra for kosher hot dogs and craft beers when most of the people coming to the BBQ are your husband’s boring coworkers:

Per the Observer,

This week’s town hall event, which was broadcast to agency facilities worldwide, was therefore met with surprise and anticipation by the NSA workforce, and Rogers did not disappoint. I have spoken with several NSA officials who witnessed the director’s talk and I’m reporting their firsthand accounts, which corroborate each other, on condition of anonymity.

In his town hall talk, Rogers reportedly admitted that President Trump asked him to discredit the FBI and James Comey, which the admiral flatly refused to do. As Rogers explained, he informed the commander in chief, “I know you won’t like it, but I have to tell what I have seen”—a probable reference to specific intelligence establishing collusion between the Kremlin and Team Trump.

Rogers then added that such SIGINT exists, and it is damning. He stated, “There is no question that we [meaning NSA] have evidence of election involvement and questionable contacts with the Russians.” Although Rogers did not cite the specific intelligence he was referring to, agency officials with direct knowledge have informed me that DIRNSA was obviously referring to a series of SIGINT reports from 2016 based on intercepts of communications between known Russian intelligence officials and key members of Trump’s campaign, in which they discussed methods of damaging Hillary Clinton.

And today’s Washington Post’s cocktail hour conversation-starter alledges

Jared Kushner and Russia’s ambassador to Washington discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring, according to U.S. officials briefed on intelligence reports.

We’re at a crucial point in the Deep State war. The initial skirmishes have passed and the Intelligence Community’s methods have grown more sophisticated. Not only must they destroy the Trump administration, they realized they have to do it in a way that doesn’t arouse strong suspicion among any but the die-hard Trumpists. The thinking may now be that the president is capable of taking himself down. Let’s call it “Operation: Give Him Enough Rope”.

The endless barage of damning evidence seems to give the IC the upper hand. Some of the allegations considered fit to print, perhaps even all of them, may be true. Events have excellerated; now the stories don’t need quite the same push as they used to. Just because the chatter has been redirected doesn’t mean the dangers of a cryptocracatic takeover have abated, however.

Have a great weekend?